Oath Sworn - K.N. Banet Page 0,1

always. Joey’s friends were all locals like him and I knew all their names. Sometimes it felt like I knew everyone’s name. John grew up in Jacksonville, the son of a couple of teachers at the high school. He’d gone to college and followed in their footsteps, becoming a teacher himself. Mark was new, at least by Jacksonville’s standards. He’d lived there for five years and still was considered the new face. Adam was another local, and like Joey, once played football at the high school, dreaming of the pros. He married his high school sweetheart and just never left.

But Joey’s special. I liked him more than most of my patrons, which was why I took a second beer out and put it next to the first.

“So you don’t need to make the walk again any time soon. On the house,” I explained, smiling kindly. He gave me a worried expression, looking over the two bottles. He picked up one, cracked it open, and took a swig before continuing to examine me.

“You okay, Jacky? Seems like something’s bothering you.”

“Why do you say that?” This was why Joey was special. He cared a bit more than most. I didn’t know why and I probably never would, but he noticed things. He noticed when I was having an off day or needed some space. He sometimes stayed to help me close up, shooing people out when they wouldn’t leave at closing. He was just too good of a guy, and sometimes I wanted to strangle him for it. Tonight was one of those nights.

“You seem distant, Jacky. Is this about the werewolves in the city? I mean, DFW is just down the road…”

“It’s nearly two hours away,” I countered. “And why would the werewolves in Dallas have anything to do with me?”

“Oh come on, Jacky! Admit it already! You’re a werewolf! We’ve known for years!” Adam called out from across the bar.

It started right there. Every voice in the bar rose, all asking or demanding for me to admit to something that I couldn’t.

“I’m not a werewolf,” I said politely, for probably the fifth time in the last twenty-four hours. Whenever the werewolves had drama that hit the news, I ran into the same question, the same accusation. “I’m not even sure where you keep getting this idea, Joey, but I’m not a werewolf.” I had to fight the deadly urge to go over the bar and smack the closest human to me, poor Joey, though I couldn’t shake the feeling he deserved it for starting this up again. If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times. I wasn’t a werewolf. I would never be a werewolf. They just refused to drop it, much to my annoyance.

Sadly, I couldn’t hit Joey over the head. It would probably kill him.

“You’re always closed on a full moon. Let’s just be honest here.” He had a point. He had a very good point, but lots of places were now closed on full moons. No one, human or otherwise, wanted to go out when the werewolves were running.

“Lots of places are closed on full moons, including half of town. It’s the only thing that interrupts Friday night football at the Tomato Bowl. Speaking of, why aren’t you down there tonight? You never miss a game, even the odd Thursday game.” I grabbed a rag and began wiping down my bar, hoping the physical work would help me ignore the fools. Hoping.

It didn’t. It never did.

“It’s an away game tonight, Jacky. You would know that if you kept up with the schedule. I bring you one every year, and you never do. You should, if you ever want anyone in town to think you belong.” He gave me one of those mock glares that was supposed to make me think he was mad, but all I could do was laugh. There was nothing scary about Joey and there never would be.

“I’m not a werewolf, so trying to belong and fit in with the local community isn’t on my political agenda, so…I have the right not to care about the local high school football team and their ridiculously-named stadium in the middle of town,” I retorted, shaking my head. They called the thing the Tomato Bowl. How was I ever supposed to take that seriously, or be remotely interested in it past making fun of it? “At least I remembered there was a game today…on a Thursday. Be proud of me.” It was one of